Mental Health

Bad People vs Bad Choices and Self Compassion

As I sat with a dear friend recently, who was going through a time of suffering, a simple concept became crystal clear to me.

We spend a lot of time saying things to ourselves that we would never say to someone we cared about. We tell ourselves we are a bad person and that we probably deserve our pain. Our loved ones might argue and tell us that we are good but we find it hard to listen because a complete reversal seems impossible.

In reality it’s more likely we have made a bad choice here and there. The intense self critic instantly equates bad choice to bad person.

This lack of self-compassion, or as I prefer to think of it – self kindness, can be devastating. We would never ever dream of treating someone we cared about in the cruel way we can treat ourselves.

If our best friend told us of a bad choice we would not make them relive it over and over and over again, punishing them with every retelling.

We would say to them ‘you are not a bad person, you may have made a bad choice’. If we were feeling particularly wise we might go on to explain that our next choice is far more important than our last.

We can’t change what has passed. We can however dare greatly and be courageous with what is now.

I’ve been rather unkind to myself regarding some sub-optimal choices. For example in my enthusiasm to hang out with a good friend last night too much beer was consumed and YouTube was on far too loud far too late.

The repercussions are a bit of a hangover this morning and a slightly annoyed neighbour who knocked on the door.

When I woke up I began to tell myself I was bad. I’m an idiot for drinking on a school night, I’m a bad neighbour and I don’t think of others.

These moments of negative self talk spiralled rapidly into other areas of my life.

You got carried away, You always get carried away. You over share, you are too much when it comes to making connections. You aren’t good at all, you are selfish disrespecting other people’s need for space.

I told myself all of this within a heartbeat of waking up.

I’m no more bad than I was before I made a couple of dubious choices. My relationship with the neighbours is far more dictated by the next choices I make than the last.

I do need to learn to sense boundaries and tame my enthusiasms but the right people will know that I’m trying and that I just mean well.

I’m not bad, I’m not ever sure my choices are bad as such. Dubious, ill informed or potentially sub-optimal maybe.

Self-kindness is the hardest part of kindness to learn but perhaps the most important.

I could easily have not noticed what I was doing to myself this morning and set myself up for a fall. Luckily I have writing to turn to and you wonderful friends to share with.

I don’t make excuses for a few less than great choices, I own them, but I will stop dwelling on them and telling myself I am bad because of them.

This is actually a wonderful time to practice gratitude. In everything there is an opportunity to be grateful because in everything there is a lesson to learn.

I see that I need to learn to ‘go with the flow’ but understand I will most likely be forgiven for my enthusiasm so far.

I’ve also learned that lots of IPA and very loud YouTubing on a Monday is not the best idea.

So friends next time you are angusihing over a choice you have made and telling yourself you are bad because of it – stop.

You aren’t.

Be kind to yourself, be who you are right now, in the moment, be authentic, align with your values and dare greatly.

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